How to Fight the Fear that You’re Wasting Your Life: An Example

Fear Anxiety Stress

There are times in life when things just aren’t very good. We don’t really acknowledge or accept those lurking, sinking waves of anxiety that roar through us, but we do blame them on other things.

  • I’ve been anxious lately, so clearly, I have a food allergy.
  • I’ve been anxious lately, so clearly, my boss is an asshole.

There’s always some logic to these, especially since we’ll spend every waking moment justifying that the issue is a something else.

Fear Anxiety Stress

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Why I’m Leaving HostGator

HostGator Review

My legit blogging journey started early 2012 when I decided to whip up a few websites to see what this whole self-hosting fuss was about it.

I started with an online tutoring business, and created a mediocre-but-awesome-for-a-beginner website one nonstop weekend in February.

HostGator Review

After reading reviews, I went for the best and friendliest seeming hosting company out there. Honestly, I really loved my hosting company for quite some time. The quality, customer service, and price were spot on. Any emails were responded to promptly. I always felt appreciated and there was no downtime,

I mean none. I’d laugh when I saw that GoDaddy or Blue Host users were down, because *I* picked the best hosting company. I was with the hidden golden child.

Except then things started to change. 

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A Confession and How One Great, Big, Terrible Truth is the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me

In the depths of My Documents, you’ll find half-finished posts and pieces about this topic scattered by sad stories about weird relationships and slow cooker recipes (sigh, I know).

Some are too scary to publish, while others just don’t tell it right.

How do I share the fundamental core of my life with absolute strangers?

The way you do anything painful – by doing it when your gut says it’s time.

My gut? It’s screaming that it’s time to out myself.

Fear of Death

Every inch of my existence is painted by my terrifying fear of death and the never-ending emptiness.

Let’s go back. In my family, we call this “the thought,” because it was always too scary to name. “The thought” harkens back to my earliest days. I don’t have a memory that doesn’t include this painful awareness.

It comes in waves of frequency and intensity, but I carry it around like a very uncomfortable blanket.

My Fear of Death

A few years ago, I finally asked my Mom for more information, the outsider’s perspective, on this whole thing.

It blew my mind when she said it started when I was 5 years old.

That knowledge crushed me. I saw little, 5-year-old Rachael full of inspiration and heart, going to bed only to wake later in soul-pain.

Although I prefer to keep religion off of here, I’m not afraid to share that this fear ultimately destroyed my religious faith. It required me to fixate so much on the Rational, that anything Spiritual was thrown under the bus.

That’s changed since then as I’ve given myself permission to try on ideas, but it doesn’t make the questioning any less intense.

For 20 years, I’ve known intimately the fear of nonexistence. It’s been terrible, painful, and too much to handle. It’s also the best thing that ever happened to me.

 Yes, those night grips of terror are absolutely worth it.

How is this possible?

There are many reasons why I’m thankful for this creepily early knowledge of nonexistence, but none other than the central, fundamental idea inside this concept:

By knowing death, I understand the value of life.

Yin and yang, good and evil, you gotta have ‘em both.

It sounds more profound and cheesy than it really is. In fact, this knowledge hits me all the time. Though it can take me one way or the other, it always underlines in permanent marker the need to live a good life.

Although I’d never say “YOLO” except in quotes and with a hearty disclaimer like this, the idea is right. You Only Live Once. You will die. Is it worth it to toil and hurt and fumble all these years (assuming we get a good amount of them) for something that doesn’t matter to us?

What matters anyway? What is meaning? —> Now you see how my inherent Existentiaism.

Imagine yourself in the grocery store. You want to be healthy so you can have a long, physically pleasant youth without shortness of breath, achy knees, and self-esteem issues. You also really want that ice cream because it has those chunks of cookie dough and fudge and cherry, and that’s a hard combo to find.

So you stand there with a frozen pint slowly melting ice onto your hands as you try to decide.

Since I know I will die one day, I want to enjoy my time here. Is it better to have a pint of something delicious now or stick to raw carrots and celery sticks?

(My choice: A minimally processed, organic choice a la the Traditional Foods movement or homemade ice cream awesomeness. Nourish the belly and the soul, ya know?)

The fear of death also makes big career choices rather difficult. It fuels my multipotentialism, which means I not only enjoy and thrive in lots of fields, but I also demand my earning hours be spent doing things I find fulfilling.

Say what you will – “jobs aren’t supposed to be fun,” or “no pain, no gain.” I’m not adverse to hard work and even find great value in those types of tasks. But, I know there is a better way, and will do everything possible to find it.

From relationships to jobs to meals to how much TV I watch, my fear of death keeps me focused on my goals in a holistic, personal way.

It always sounds so odd to me to say that death makes my life better, but it does. I’m not much less scared of it, though I’ve learned coping skills. I’m not looking forward to it, but I certainly am looking forward to a long life of health, happiness, and self-acceptance.

No regrets.

Does the fear of death influence your life choices? Would you change this, if possible? Write below in the comments!

4 Things that Exhaust Me About Freelance Writing and Why I Do It Anyway

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Freelance Writing Stress

Do you have this issue?

There are times I’m so utterly overwhelmed, unhinged, and emotionally powered down that I just want to quit.

I want to quit this client, this project, or even this profession.

Freelance Writing Stress

I want to wave the white flag, call a truce, and camp out in the bunkers with contraband ice cream and Cheez-Its (and wine).

There are many reasons I might respond this way some including things like actual clinical depression and a stupid amount of student debt.

More often than not though, it’s these 4 issues that get me freakin’.

1. Poor Client Communication

Know the euphoric feeling of wooing a client into an LTR only to then find they…

  • Want only your unpaid insights, and not your paid work
  • Won’t accept or agree to any contracts or proposals – let alone provide feedback
  • Change their budget tune only after you get started
  • Can’t prioritize their needs and leave you scrambling at the last minute to meet unecessarily stressful deadlines
  • Expect an insane amount of revisions for overly small details?

 

Fortunately, I know that most of these poor communication issues come from myself – from a lack of confidence in my own worth, compromising my values for short-term gain, and not knowing the right steps in the process of going from lead to paying client.

2. Switching from Admin to Creative Mode

You know the feeling. You’re completely immersed in a project for your own sites and blogs (I have 3 I fall in obsession with all the time), but a deadline means you have to stop and do an about-face immediately. You go from fun, write-about-whatever-I-like to write-about-whatever-this-guy’s-paying-you-for, and it can be a bummer if you aren’t super picky about the fun level in your assignments.

Careful time management can help with this stuff, but you’ll still have the business-to-creative transition to make.

On the other hand, that also means you have the built-in flexibility to opt for creative or administrative tasks depending on your schedule and mood.

3. There are no short-term solutions.

Super broke? Like, got the not even ramen is in your budget blues?

Unless you’re in the process of acquiring a new client and you work with retainers or you’re willing to hustle through an insane amount of low-paying but easy-to-find work, you’ll be hounding the Craigslist ETC jobs page or asking Grandma for an advance on that $10 she sends for your birthday.

This part ticks my enthusiasm meter to a full, red E, and takes a lot of meditation, patience, and self-love to refill.

Remember that game The Sims? Know how it would take forever for your characters to do basic things when they were hungry or had to go to the bathroom?

Being broke is like that. It slows everything down, and makes me throw punctuation marks in the air while having a tantrum and maybe peeing my pants (not so much that last part).

4. I feel unqualified, inexperienced, and ineffective.

Lots of sad words to describe one’s self, I know, but it’s the truth. Despite:

  • having a degree in English,
  • receiving financial compensation for my written work (sort of the definition of freelance writing?), and
  • being notably more successful at writing and communication than the average bear…

 

I feel like a fake.

I didn’t go to Freelance Writing School, and I learned most of this blogging know-how through hard work and experience (great teachers, but kind of bitches).

Still, I feel like I promise more than I can give and often catch myself sabotaging my own success by procrastinating, wallowing, and avoiding my responsibilities and life.

Despite all this, I continue to write professionally.

Why do I keep going?

Because I’m constantly pulled back, even when I’m barely keeping it together.

There’s some weird little part of me that exists solely to help others.

From the clients and their ingenious businesses to the financial flexibility this lifestyle can afford, I’m glued. You tell me your problem, and I’ll unstick myself immediately to create your solution.

Why? Because it feels good.

  • I’ll hear, “Hey Rachael, what do you think about setting up a blog series on making cheese at home?” Freak yes!
  • “Hey Girl, What’s the best way to backlink without selling my soul?”
  • Or, “Dearest Rachael, can you help me share my life’s dream (aka this product or service or website)?”

It gets me every time. Each client, each project is a new challenge, and allows me to share my hard-won knowledge/paddle with others up a creek.

Every part of my being feels stimulated, and I get paid to do it! That blows my mind.

Plus, most of my issues exist because of my fears and insecurities. By pushing through the discomfort, I’ll always find that kernel of awesomeness that keeps me fulfilled.

So no matter how bogged down I feel, I always stick around because I need to help you.

What about you?

What gives you pause?

What fans your fires?

How to Submit Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools with a Custom URL

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Submit Sitemap to Google

First off: good on you.

You know just how important it is to submit your sitemap to the big search engines if you want real traffic. If Google can’t access your content in lightning speeds, other sites are going to get those clicks and readers.

 Submit Sitemap to Google

But sometimes, Google Webmaster Tools can be confusing. It’s streamlined, but still a little clunky, and the help options are always overly wordy and often too technical.

Recently, I found myself trying to submit sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools, but I kept getting the dreaded 404 “page not found” error. How could my sitemaps not be found? I just checked, and they were right there.

I did two things to resolve my sitemap troubles, and I recommend both.

1. Install Google XML Sitemaps plugin for WordPress.

This allows you to customize a whole variety of features when it comes to your sitemaps, and you can even create custom titles and URLs and all of that. I thought this was going to resolve my problem, but it did not. Instead, it showed me the URL at which my real sitemap is displayed, which I then noticed was not the same as what Google thought.

2. Delete your old sitemap, and burn a new one.

See that red button that says “add/submit sitemap?” Click it, and add the file name used to create the URL on your blog.

So, if you’ll enter yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or yourdomain.com/sitemap or however else you customize the wording.

If you’re getting the 404 error like I did, select the little checkbox to the left of the submission, and hit “delete.”

Then, figure out your custom sitemap URL (this is where the XML Sitemaps plugin makes it really convenient), and add your tail words.

Hit submit, and watch your sitemap get all eaten up by the Google spiders!

If this does not work, check all of the details and punctuation. If you get a different error…read the Webmaster Tools help information, and then search for layman-friendly posts on how to make the fix.

What was my problem? I didn’t add the .xml bit to my URL when I first submitted my sitemap. No matter how frequently I updated Attracta or utilized my best SEO techniques, my traffic wasn’t right. Now, I know that Google has a clear and full view of my blog, and I’m in the clear. Finally!

Did this help? Drop a quick note below and let me know!

Disclosure: cmp.ly/5

Why Taking a Facebook Break Might Not Be the Worst Thing Ever for a Blogger

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Facebook Break

On June 10, 2013, I decided that my Facebook addiction had gone too far.

Instead of spending time with family or getting out of the house, I was continuously sucked into the downward blue-and-white scrolling of the insanely popular social media site.

Facebook Break

“The internet is stealing my soul.”

As a blogger who maintains several different pages, I was constantly checking new updates, searching for social media parties, and looking for content to share. If I spent several hours a day obsessively Facebooking, I could generate some major traffic boosts to my food blog‘s page.

But, that meant I spent hours on my days off of work doing things to watch numbers increase. Basically, I was supplementing my real life with an artificial one so I felt less bored and lonely.

That’s a painful truth to admit. Sure, I justify it as “blog work,” but it was also “sad, bored Rachael work.” The more it leaned towards the latter, the more I knew it was time to go.

So, I finished up a few email relays I had going, sent out a goodbye, and logged off (suspending your account is really about the same as logging off).

The worst part of the entire experience was teaching myself to let go. WhyThe second my “I’m leaving” status went live: my numbers dropped.

Not just a little, but a lot. It was like I said “I step on puppy tails and I like it,” not, “hey, I’m moving across the country and going crazy with social media addiction.”

That hurt my feelings (boo, a blogger with feelings!) because it felt like my readers were such fair-weather, one-sided friends that they disappeared if I needed time for myself.

Blogging really is a going-out-of-your-way process. Sure, it might seem like I’m just spewing out content, but I’m actually doing an insane amount of leg work, not including creating and preparing recipes, photographs, posts, and more. It can very easily be a full-time job if I don’t keep it in check.

So, the crux of the emotional pain was that people didn’t want me around anymore if I wasn’t giving them something for free, and that hurt.

Over a month into this little experiment, that pain went away completely. Who cares if they left? That’s not my core readership. My core readers actually comment MORE on my individual posts and I still get traffic from people sharing my updates on their Facebook pages. My real audience understands and, even more, supports my choice.

I blog more, spend more time on the little details, and have noticed a drastic spike in affiliate sales and advertising fees. Yes, when I cut off Facebook, I doubled my Amazon Associates earnings.

Success Kid Blogging

That’s probably not a direct correlation, but still, I wake up in the morning and my numbers continue to increase even without the obsessive Facebook stalking.

Do you have a Facebook problem?

If you…

Promise you can “quit anytime,” you might.

“Just want to scroll one more page,” you definitely do.

Talk about your statuses and comments in ordinary conversation, you need a break.

Will it kill your numbers?

Not necessarily. Even if it does, does it matter? Would you rather have a high Like count or increased traffic and revenue? What about a little more breathing room in your life? That sounds pretty sweet to me.

The moral of the story: take care of yourself.

Do what you need to do. If you want or need time away from Facebook, go for it. People will leave, but those who do are not really your core readership.

If you have more time for life, you’ll feel more relaxed and refreshed, you’ll write better content, and your blog will improve.

Or, you’ll enjoy being alive, stop worrying about the little details, and have fun a while.

Either way, you CAN be a blogger and stay off Facebook. And it isn’t even the slightest bit of a nail in the coffin.

What do you think? Would you ever leave your Facebook page unattended for a while? Are you happy with the amount of time you spend on Facebook? Would you ever be willing to try a brief Facebook break? Why or why not?

One Year Later: An oDesk Review

oDesk Review

Nearly a year ago, I signed up with oDesk. I finally realized that I wanted to turn my freelance writing dreams into reality and also, I wanted money so I could feed myself and my cat.

Last August, I wrote a post about making oDesk work for you, which continues to be my biggest traffic boon. Turns out people around the world had similar ideas to mine, and wanted to know a bit before jumping in (smart move, world!).

Click here for 17 tips to avoid being scorned on oDesk! And yes, “scorned” is basically the same as “screwed.”

I received both positive and negative criticism out there. Many freelance writers think it’s awful another would ever consider suggesting such an endeavor to new writers. Others thanked me for my feedback, and told me that my words helped them know what to look for and what to avoid.

The real test, though, is to see if I still use the site. Even with my long list of tips and suggestions, do I still work with any of the clients I met through oDesk? Do I still work as a freelance writer?

No and Yes.

Do I still work with any of my oDesk clients?

First, I must admit that I found wonderful clients on oDesk. These tips led me to amazing people working hard to make their own businesses work. I really enjoyed knowing I was helping real people, but I eventually walked away from all of my projects.

Yes, there was work out there and yes, there were good clients, but I couldn’t generate enough passion and enthusiasm to write about topics that don’t interest me personally. Maybe that’s bad and maybe I’ll get some criticism for that, but I just couldn’t. Instead of writing strong posts on topics I cared about, I was forcing myself to write mediocre articles. I take my work seriously, and I do not want my name on mediocre articles. Would you?

So instead of schlepping manure, I opted to lose those sources of income. It was hard walking away from some of the clients, but I am glad that I had the guts to know when it was time to go.

Am I still a freelance writer?

Yes! In my heart, yes. Do I have any paying gigs right now? …Not at the moment. I took a break to figure out what to do with myself. I needed the income (student loans and such), but I also wanted to make sure that I only worked on projects that I could sustain. I’ve been working more on my own blogs and researching great places to guest blog. Plus, I’ve been helping other blogger friends make their sites and pages work.

As it turns out, that’s what I like. I love helping people, especially brand new bloggers, turn their ideas into something real. Sometimes, all they need is an extra set of eyes. Other times, they need to be walked through a specific process here or there. I’ve done it, I know how to do it, and I love sharing.

To pay the bills, I took an out-of-the-house job as a cheesemonger (for real), which fits perfectly in line with my food love. I am seeking new clients and work that fit within the parameters of topics I actually enjoy, so don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any projects or questions out there! I’m still totally available and eager.

Do I ever return to oDesk?

There have been times when I’ve gone to oDesk to look up the projects available out there, but I always end up shaking my head and closing all of the tabs. Those pay rates just are not sustainable with the expenses I have here in the U.S. The best projects I took were through oDesk though, so that doesn’t mean that you can’t find great clients out there. For higher, more sustainable rates though, you might have to look elsewhere.

My biggest tip about making oDesk work for you now…

Grab a niche. Yes, be versatile. Have skillz out the wazoo, BUT you also need a niche. I found my best clients when I narrowed down the focus as a small business blogger and social media manager. People wanted that background of people who can do the social media thing but also offer blogging. They also found my degree to be an asset, as it proved my writing and research strengths.

To succeed, pick something that you do really well (or want to do) and sell yourself as that. Don’t be a “freelance writer;” Be a “social media manager” or “food blogger” or “technical virtual assistant” or something else like that. Be specific. Clients LOVE finding people who can do exactly what they want.

One Year Later: An oDesk Review

The best thing about oDesk…

Still, I think that oDesk is a great place for new writers to get started. You might not make a ton, but you can see what it’s like to work with a client and fulfill a writing gig. You learn how to sell yourself through a cover letter, and how to get over the fear of failure and JUST DO IT ALREADY.

oDesk gave me some cred, but my work helped turn me into a professional.

Do you have any oDesk experiences? How were they? How did you get started as a writer?

Disclaimer: I may be compensated financially for any purchases made from the links above.

How to Get More Guest Posts for Your Blog: 3 Simple Steps

Get More Guest Posts

{Today, I am so honored to introduce you to Keri Lynn from Amazing Women in History. She’s a phenomenal writer, and one of the coolest women I’ve ever met (even if we’re only internet friends).

We met over Reddit once, and she had written this amazing list of tips to increase your guest blogger count, and I told her she should share it as her own guest post somewhere…like here! So she wrote it up, and sent it on over. This is some top notch advice, and I feel not worthy of such wisdom here!

So please, read everything, leave comments, and then tell her you love her, too. – Rachael}

I’m sure you’ve read all the advice floating around the interwebs about guest posting: why it’s the greatest way to build your blog, how to find the best blogs to guest post on, what to write about, and how to snag that spot on the A-list blogs.

But what if you’re on the opposite end? Not an A-lister, I mean (though if you are, and you’re reading this right now, you should totally read my blog AmazingWomenInHistory and tell all your followers about it). I mean a blogger like me with an established blog whose looking for some guest posters.

Get More Guest Posts

If guest posting is such a big thing, you might be thinking, where are all these bloggers that should be overflowing your email inbox with proposals and queries and kick-ass posts for you? The truth is, you’re probably not making it worth their time to write for you, or maybe you’re keeping it a secret that you accept guest posts. You’re probably not even asking for guests posts either, are you?

“Wait — why do I want guest posts?”

Besides the fact that it makes you feel like a superstar when other people want to write for your blog (isn’t that enough??), here’re a few reasons why you should be seeking guest posts:

  1. Other people promote your blog for you. When your guest post goes up, your guest writer will happily share their post with their own platform. They’ll tweet it, share it on Facebook or LinkedIn, post it to G+, email it to their friends & family, maybe even pin it to Pinterest. That’s a lot of marketing legwork someone’s doing for you for free!
  2. All this promotion your guest is doing for you is going to keep working for you long after their precious is posted, through the magic of SEO: Search Engine Optimization. All that social sharing and backlinks will give your blog a big Google boost long after the date stamp on the post itself.
  3. Mini-vacation! You’ve gotta take a break once in a while, but there’s no need to make your readers wait for your return. Why not take a mini-break from blogging by featuring other writers for a week or two? You can even spend the time you’re saving to start working on that e-book you’ve been planning for the past year. Okay, maybe that’s just me.
  4. Here’s one benefit that’s a little less markety: Having guests on your blog is a great way to build relationships (which actually is the best way to build your blog—but this point isn’t about marketing. Oops). I’ve met several wonderful people through Amazing Women In History who are just as passionate about women’s history and writing as I am. We’ve developed real relationships and helped each other out with the challenges of blogging and more, and I feel so lucky that I’ve gotten to know these amazing & inspiring people.

So if you weren’t before, you’ve gotta be dying for the secrets for attracting all these guest posters. Believe me, they’re out there! You just have to know how to reach them & convince them it’s you blog they want to write for.

1. Write your guest post guidelines

If you want guest posts, it’s absolutely essential for you to have a guidelines page on your website, with a clear link in your main menu:

  • It shows all your visitors that you accept guest posts.
  • It pops up in the Google searches of guest posters looking for your blog.
  • It saves you time by telling potential guest posters exactly what you’re looking for in a post.
  • It attracts potential guest posters by extolling the benefits of writing for you.
  • Make the title obvious. For a while, my page was titled “Contribute”. Terrible idea. I finally realized that everyone that saw the link probably thought I was asking for donations. Which I am; but not monetary, just literary. Now it says “WriteforAWH”.
  • Specify what kind of posts you’re looking for. If you only want posts on certain topics, list them here. Tell them what style of writing will fit with your blog, how long you want the post to be (in word count), whether you need pictures or other media with it, etc. If you want to limit the amount of outside links in the post, or disallow affiliate links, here’s the place to tell them.
  • Convince them it’s worth it. This is optional; you might want to keep this info to yourself, or tell them in a private email. You could tell them exactly how you’ll promote their post—how many times will you tweet it? Will you share it on Facebook? Send it out in your newsletter? On my page, I have a section titled “Self-Promotion”, where I tell them about how they can write their own bio including a picture, and include links to their websites and social media accounts.
  • SEO Optimize. This is a scary-sounding phrase if you don’t know SEO, but really it just means to use the same words on your page that are being used to search for you. Prolific guest posters will often search for new blogs by entering search terms like [niche] “guest post guidelines” or [niche] “write for us”. So you want to use these exact phrases on your page, especially in important places like page titles and headings.

Guidelines for your “Guest Post Guidelines” page

1. Make it worth their while

Here’s the most important fact for you to remember about soliciting guest posts: No one’s going to write for you for free.

Now I know you’re an awesome person with an amazing blog, and in a perfect world people would be flooding your inbox with proposals to write for you just for the sheer joy of it. Alas, that perfect world doesn’t exist, and everyone here in this blogosphere is in it for themselves.

We know why guest posting is so popular: bloggers guest post around the interwebs for exposure. Whether to build their newsletter, boost their SEO, or sell more books, they’re in it for the big payoff. You’ve got to let them know exactly why your blog is the best place for them to do that.

  • Have your stats ready to share if someone asks for them. How much to share is up to you; you may want to keep some or all of this info (like hits per day or your newsletter subscribers) a trade secret. But a lot of it is publicly available anyway, like your Twitter followers, Facebook likes, or RSS subscribers, so you may as well show them off. Focus on the big numbers and don’t mention the ones that still need work.
  • Give your guest authors a sweet author bio. Don’t just ask them for a bio—ask them for a picture and let them list all their websites & social media. I recommend the WordPress plugin CustomAboutAuthor. It lets you display a really nice-looking bio for guest authors with a picture and links to all their social media profiles. This is really attractive to potential guest posters because they know their bio will be featured prominently.
  • Tell them how you’ll promote their post. I tweet a post at least 3 times the week it’s out, plus it gets tweeted automagically every so often with my Tweetily plugin. I also share all posts on my Facebook page and send them out to my email newsletter. You can put this information on your “Write for Us” page, or just share it when inviting someone to write for you.

2. Ask for guest posts

Ninety percent of blogging success comes from building relationships. Okay, I just made up that percentage; but we all know that building relationships with other bloggers is truly essential if you want to succeed in blogging.

You already know where your readers and fellow bloggers in your niche hang out, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 90’s-looking niche forums, or wherever. You’re out there schmoozing and helping and giving advice and generally building your rep as the expert.

Guess what? All those friends & colleagues you’re meeting are potential guest posters for your blog. Some of them may be dying to get exposure for their own blog or book or Kickstarter project, and would love to write you a little post to help them get the word out.

Here’s how you can harness their powers for your own blog:

  1. Remind the world that you accept guest posts. Here’s where you can show off your new guidelines page. Just post a quick message like “Hey, did you know Super Awesome Blog is now accepting guest posts? We’d love to have you! Check it out here: http://example.com/guest-post-guidelines/
  2. Get your competition working for you. You’re already checking up on the competition, and you know they’ve got what it takes to write a great post. Email your blogging arch-nemesis asking for a guest post exchange.
  3. Hit up new fans and followers. Next time someone interesting follows you on Twitter or Facebook, take some time to check out their website or blog. If you like what you see, send them a Twitter DM or Facebook message complimenting their work, and ask if they’d be interested in guest posting on your blog.

Bonus tip: Don’t worry too much about how big or small your guest’s blog is. Maybe your guest only has 500 Twitter followers to your 5,000. Guess what? They’re way more likely to put their heart and soul into promoting their post, and may become one of your most loyal readers. And don’t be too intimidated to ask a bigger blogger for a guest post. You just won’t know till you ask—maybe your favorite big blogger is a fan of yours, too!

Now you’re ready for more guests posts on your blog! Here are 3 simple steps to take now:

  1. Start writing that Guest Post Guidelines page—don’t put it off! Don’t worry about getting it perfect at first; you can always add more info later.
  2. Get your blog ready for your guests. Collect some stats and decide how you’ll display your author bios and promote their posts.
  3. Now make a list of 5 bloggers you want to write for you, and contact them with a short & sweet email or Twitter DM.

Follow these three steps & soon you’ll be able to go on a blogging vacation with all the posts you’ll have rolling in ;)

What You Need to Know: Linky Party and Blog Hop Basics

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unwarranted-advice-icon-150

In the food blogging world within which I am so happy to be a part, there are these popular things called “blog hops” and “linky parties.” It took me some time to figure out WHAT THE HECK they were, but I think I have enough knowledge now to pass on how they work!

Let’s break it down easy style.

What is a linky party?

Basically, a linky party is an “event” that spans a set period of times (hours, days, months, years) that allows people to share URLs to specific posts or pages on another person’s website.

Often, the linky party host will allow for photos to display, which means you show a little picture of your recipe or project above the direct link to the post itself.

Linky Party Basics

Here’s a simple example of what a linky party looks like. Note the icons, purple URLs, and blue submission button.

A linky party is usually for specific projects, NOT your blog homepage, although there are some “market yourself” types of linky parties intended to increase traffic.

What is a blog hop?

Although pretty much the same as a linky party, a blog hop usually happens when multiple bloggers host a party from various different sites.

This happens when the bloggers embed a specific code (Java, iFrame, HTML, etc) onto their page, which shows the contents of the specific party (the pictures and links) on all of the sites that contain the code.

Sometimes blog hops are run by just a few people, but other times, entire groups of people pass the code around like in different recipe clubs, etc.

Why would I want to do this?

Well, this relates back to the issue of blog authority. If you can show the search engines that you are an authoritative, popular, and respected site, they will increase your ranking. A higher rank converts into more traffic, which can lead to higher income (assuming that’s why you blog).

Plus, you can pass on a fun recipe or project. For specific seasons and holidays, many bloggers host themed-parties, which makes it easier for people to find relevant content in one place.

Note: If you subscribe to a linky service, you often get unlimited lists. Many people use this to share long lists of links with ease, instead of manually changing everything from within a post. Like, you could host a page where people share their own linky parties or giveaways.

What’s in it for me?

In addition to the increased rank and potential earnings from traffic spikes, you can also create a wider blogger outreach (crucial to those of us who like communities). Sometimes, bloggers will even host giveaways based on their linky parties or hops, so all those who enter are eligible to receive a specific prize. Or, the party can really be a traffic contest. The most popular posts (those clicked most often, as tallied by the linky party program) are often featured in the next week’s linky party post (with full size pictures) and can receive free advertising, etc.

Do you have a particular program preference?

Actually, yes. At first, I preferred something called LinkyTools. There was a free trial, a nice set up, and a great blog run by the program’s creator.

But, LinkyTools required people submitting their links to open a new tab, and fill out a full page of information. It went quickly, but it was an inconvenience.

So, I moved to InLinkz, which requires a link, link name, and email address. It then opens a page for the individual to select a picture, and that’s it. Super easy, cheaper than LinkyTools, and very versatile. I’m sold (I even bought a year subscription to the service because I like it that much).

Linky parties and blog hops might not be for everyone, but they’re an incredibly popular part of the blogging world. Plus, they’re extremely easy to run and host (it’s as easy as creating a new post and embedding code). I love that they help me build pages full of relevant, blogger-approved content for my readers, and that I can build a little blogging world. They’re fun!

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate of InLinkz, and may receive a small compensation if you purchase any services through the links above.

“Deadlines and Depression:” The Unwanted Slogan of My Freelance Life

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Depression

Although I’ve shared some of my less-than-awesome life thoughts in the past, I always try to remain infinitely positive. Why? Well, it’s partly for you and partly for me. I presume that you, my loveliest reader, are a beginning blogger or someone looking for their life path. Perhaps you come here for practical tips, or perhaps you come here to spend time with a like-minded soul on the path for their big, meaningful life’s work.

If you see me struggle, maybe you’ll feel dejected, breath that “harumph” of a sigh, and feel less awesome about who you are and where you’re going. That’s the EXACT opposite of what I want to happen! Therefore, I try to keep my contemporaneous conundrums to myself.

But then…I don’t write, because I don’t know how to be upbeat and cheerful at the moment. I feel sullen and sorrowful in the worst, Hamlet-ian kinds of ways. No one wants to read that. No one.

So, I don’t write because I’m not cheery, then I’m not cheery because I’m not writing, which then cycles back in and on itself in a terrible train wreck of a path.

That’s no good.

Part of this comes from the actual, clinical depression with which I ride around in life. It’s always there in my purse, next to me on the passenger seat, or, in the worst of times, as a giant, all-engulfing helmet that occludes my vision.

It can become incredibly challenging to stay focused, and then this weird thing happens:

Depression

I stick a pin in my life raft.

This whole freelance writing and blogging gig is my life raft. It enables me all kinds of fancy and fun things like working from home, wearing pajamas all g-d day, traveling on a whim, focusing on my very own and very particular interests and fancies, hand-picking the best clients and projects, eating breakfast for lunch and lunch for breakfast, and many, many more.

I started freelance writing because I couldn’t find a single freakin’ job not in food service or sales. Here I was with this shockingly expensive degree in English and I wanted to do something with it! My critical thinking and writing skills are off the charts. People need writers. People need thinkers. I’m desirable.

Plus, I never wanted to feel stuck in one job or one place. As a military brat, being stuck somewhere makes me panic. However morbid it may be, I always go back to the scenario of the death of a family member. I’m a family-oriented person. If someone passes, I’m going to the funeral and I do not care what any employer says. What if I couldn’t attend a funeral because of a work commitment? What if I couldn’t go on vacation, attend a wedding, or take advantage of the little luxuries in life because of some time clock?

Personally, that’s not an option. The money-making constraints in my life will not stand in the way between me and what I want.

That’s a resolution I made exactly a year ago when I opted to go down the sole proprietor/independent contractor/freelance mindworker road.

With all of these strong, personalized resolutions, I should have no problem mustering up the gumption to fulfill all of my work obligations. Right?

But, I don’t. I don’t want to sit down and type out of all of these blog posts, newsletters, and sundry items. So, I do anything else. I bake, clean, or organize when I’m still feeling positive. When I’m feeling depressed, I go into all-out couch potato mode. It’s a terrible sight. I can power through more hours of television viewing than I’m comfortable admitting. It’s a complete shutdown justified as a way of entertaining myself that doesn’t really do any such thing. I throw my sleep schedule off by staying up way too late to see how this last home renovation goes, and then kick myself from waking up too late to submit posts on time.

When this starts happening, I have to remind myself of these things:

  • I chose this path.
  • These people are depending on me.
  • Passive aggressive is no way to live.
  • This isn’t fun for anyone.
  • Life could and should be better.
  • It’s better to quit a job than to be fired.
  • Money is no object until it is.
  • Life will be better the sooner you start acting.

Even when my depression starts slicing away my desire and ability to stay on target, there are ways to pull myself out. Usually, it requires some introspection and the guts to end a project that I’m fighting against for some wicked reason.

Deadlines and depression might be how it goes sometimes, but I still have the ultimate confidence that this is where I want to be.